Smoking and Covid-19 can overburden your lungs

August 19, 2021

As the lungs of a smoker are already in a bad shape, Covid-19 can further worsen its condition. Therefore, it is advised to quit smoking and take all precautions to safeguard the lungs.

The lungs were not given the importance as they ought to be until the second wave of Covid-19 surfaced. Lungs are often taken for granted. The wellness of the lungs is given priority only when any complication arises. Lungs are the vital organ in our body that converts the oxygen from the air which we inhale and transfer to the bloodstream. For many years healthcare professionals have stressed the importance of maintaining healthy lungs and advising people to quit smoking. However, many have not paid heed to this advice. 

All of us are aware that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 disease obstructs the respiratory system majorly affecting the lungs. This infection is certainly testing our lungs. As lungs play a major role in the overall working of the body, it becomes crucial to ensure lung health to put up a fight against this infectious disease

Covid-19 can cause lung complications like pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, and in some fatal cases, total collapse of the lungs. In cases of pneumonia, the air sacs in the lungs are filled with fluid and the valves of the lungs get inflamed resulting in difficulty in breathing and severe cough. Many people recover from pneumonia without much effect on the lungs. But in cases of pneumonia due to Covid-19, people face severe breathing difficulties which take a longer time to recover putting an extra burden on the lungs. If pneumonia progresses it can lead to acute respiratory diseases in which more of the air sacs will get filled up with the fluid leaking from the blood vessels in the lungs. This can lead to severe shortness of breath. 

As Covid-19 infection takes the respiratory route to enter a person, the burden on the lungs is phenomenal. This burden on the lungs increases among people who smoke. As the smoke moves into the respiratory tract, more soluble gases are adsorbed and particles are deposited in the airways and alveoli. This in the long run can lead to severe problems related to the lungs. Smoking can increase the chances of COPD among people leading to a faster decline of lung functioning. The chemicals in the cigarettes can also cause irreversible lung damage. In addition, smoking can destroy the cilia or tiny hairs that are present in the airways. These hairs keep dirt and mucus out of your lungs. When these cilia are destroyed, one can develop a chronic cough that is often seen in long-term or daily smokers.

Though there is no proof that smoking can make a person vulnerable to develop Covid-19 or the severity of the infection increases if the person is smoking, it is a known fact that both smoking and Covid-19 infection is putting an extra burden on the lungs. As the lungs of a smoker are already in a bad shape, Covid-19 can further worsen its health. Therefore, it is advised to quit smoking and take all precautions to safeguard the lungs. 

Two functions determine the overall health of lungs — Lung capacity and lung function. While lung capacity is depending on the genes, making the lungs function properly is up to us.

Here are a few tips you can follow to have healthy lungs:

Exercise: At least 30 minutes of daily exercise is imperative for adults to avoid any lung distress. Indulge in a physical activity that makes you breathe heavily. It increases the flow of oxygen in your bloodstream that increases airflow to your muscles, heart, and lungs. Running, brisk walking, cycling, and swimming are the few suggested exercises.

Diet: Choice of food is crucial for lung and immune system health. It is being noticed that people with underlying ailments have been affected badly due to Covid-19. It could be due to chronic inflammation. Many foods assist the body with decreasing inflammation in the airways. Consume proper nutritional food, particularly food high in antioxidants like fruits and vegetables.

Quit smoking: It is not only lung cancer but inhaling anything other than air into your lungs causes them to become inflamed. This can lead to mucus build-up that impacts the lung’s ability to process oxygen into the bloodstream. For a person already having lung damage, treatment becomes a factor and the recovery may get delayed. 

Oral health: Maintain good oral health. Avoid the build up of plaque and infection in the mouth. These infections could also affect the lungs. 

With Covid-19 second wave affecting both the young and older generation, the number of cases of Covid-19 and people needing oxygen support has increased. We are at a juncture where paying attention to our lung health and working towards its betterment gains utmost importance.  

The writer is a Consultant – Pulmonologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Hebbal (A unit of Manipal Hospitals).

Covid-19 infection takes the respiratory route to enter a person so the burden on the lungs is phenomenal. This burden on the lungs increases among people who smoke. As the smoke moves into the respiratory tract, more soluble gases are adsorbed and particles are deposited in the airways and alveoli. This in the long run can lead to severe problems related to the lungs.

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